Tag Archives: Danny Glover

The Royal Tenenbaums

Before I say anything else, understand that my mind is busily chewing over a fact that makes me very uncomfortable, namely, the near-uniform whiteness of Wes Anderson’s movies. I love Wes Anderson. I love his movies. But I do not love monochromatic casting. But in thinking on this quite a bit in the past few months, I’ve come to realize that it’s not that he doesn’t hire people of colour, it’s that he doesn’t hire African Americans, rather specifically. In fact, The Royal Tenenbaums may be the only time he’s every hired a black actor for a role of substance (Courtney B. Vance got to narrate Isle of Dogs), and it’s really only to service a racist character, ie, Danny Glover’s only there so that Gene Hackman can call him a long list of slurs. And though Wes Anderson’s worlds are so often populated by the same faces, Glover’s has never reappeared. Hiring someone just to be a target seems particularly cruel. However, Kumar Pallana, an Indian actor, had appeared in 4 of Anderson’s films (he died in 2013 – and was originally a barista in Anderson’s favourite Dallas coffee shop). Waris Ahluwalia, an Indian-born, American Sikh, has been in three. Tony Revolori, the terrific breakout bellboy from The Grand Budapest Hotel, is of Guatemalan descent, though so far he’s appeared in more Spider-man movies than he has in the Wes Anderson universe. There was a smattering of Japanese voice actors in Isle of Dogs, though surprisingly and relatively few considering the whole film takes place in Japan. This isn’t exactly an exhaustive list, but it’s as close as it is short, and between you and I, the minute you start putting together a list of non-white actors, you’ve already lost. That’s 9 terrific, talky, thinky, inventive pieces of cinema with incredible ensemble casts and insane attention to detail and just 1 solitary black man, necessary to the script to be the recipient of a grumpy old man’s careless racist remarks. It’s a terrible tally.

And it’s too bad that Anderson’s movies have this problem because otherwise they’d be 100% my jam.

The Tenenbaums are a fascinatingly dysfuntional family. Matriarch Etheline (Anjelica Huston) raised her 3 children to be exceptional after her lousy husband Royal (Gene Hackman) left. Chas Tenenbaum was a prodigy investor, successfully running businesses out of his childhood bedroom. Now he’s a recent widower and fresh trauma has him raising his own sons in a constant state of terror. Margot Tenenbaum was a prodigy playwright, earning prizes and praise as a child for her mature writing. Today she’s literally soaking in depression as her husband Raleigh (Bill Murray) knocks helplessly on the bathroom door. Richie Tenenbaum (Luke Wilson) was a tennis prodigy hopelessly in love with his sister, Margot. He had a career-ending meltdown when Margot married Raleigh, and he’s spent the time since sailing the world, keeping oceans between himself and his family. Eli (Owen Wilson) is the boy next door who grew up gazing upon the relative privilege of the Tenenbaum family, wishing to belong to them. And of course Henry Sherman (Glover) is Etheline’s new suitor and the family’s disruptor.

Broke, homeless, with hackles raised about the new man prowling about, Royal Tenenbaum decides to home after decades away. They won’t have him of course. He spent years disappointing his family before being completely estranged from them. So his only move is to fake cancer as a ploy to gain sympathy – and even that’s a tough sell. But it gets him back in the family home, and one by one the grown children all return to orbit around him. They’re all fucked up in their own ways, but they’ve also got an extremely fucked up dynamic together. They’re a bunch of fire starters just waiting for a match, and Royal is a goddamned flame thrower. Whoosh.

It’s a movie full of quirks that still manages to be cohesive and sell a cogent story about a family full of tragedies. Betrayal lurks in every closet, disaster through every doorway. And even though it contains perhaps Anderson’s bleakest scene ever (set to Elliott Smith’s Needle in the Hay), it’s not all doom and gloom. There are plenty of laughs, but also some actual heartfelt moments. The movie is an act of forgiveness, a representation of forgiveness being a gift you give yourself, to set yourself free from the past and the pain it causes you. Royal may be irredeemable but his family is not. They’re deeply flawed and chronically eccentric, but the script searches authenticity and finds it in abundance.

Fun Facts:

Though the role of Royal was written with Hackman in mind, it was offered to Gene Wilder, who turned it down.

Danny Glover’s look in the film was modeled after U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, which is possibly my favourite sentence in the world.

There is no such thing as Dalmatian mice; the spots were drawn on with Sharpies.

Anjelica Huston wears Wes Anderson’s mother’s glasses in the film.

The hand that is seen with the BB lodged between its knuckles is not Ben Stiller’s, it’s Andrew Wilson’s (yes, brother to Luke and Owen). It’s no trick, he really has a BB stuck in there and has since childhood. Can you guess which one of his brothers shot him?

I turned to Sean at one point to say that there were a lot of Beatles songs in the film. In fact, Ruby Tuesday was playing at the moment, which is by the Stones, as I’m sure you’re aware, and as I myself am normally aware, though my brain was clearly existing in some alternate reality at the time. There is a Beatles song, and a John Lennon one, and four from the Stones. Brain fart.

Advertisements

The Old Man & The Gun

Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford) is a charming old rascal. He meets Jewel (Sissy Spacek) on the side of the road in front of her broken down truck while still in the getaway portion of a bank heist. Would she believe him even if he told her?

Based on a true story, Forrest Tucker was a Texan bank robber who escaped San Quentin at the age of 70 and went on yet another crime spree in the early 80s. Well, his whole life, really, when he wasn’t in prison, which he often was. But then he always escaped and went straight back to the only thing that ever made him happy. His victims would often note how happy he looked, how polite he was. A real mv5bmta2odriy2utnzq1zi00zjzklwe4mwyty2u1odiznty2yzc2xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyntc5otmwotq@._v1_gentleman. John Hunt (Casey Affleck) is the cop who just happens to be making a deposit on the morning of one of Forrest’s robberies. He vows to chase him and his Over-The-Hill Gang (Danny Glover, Tom Waits).

The Old Man & The Gun isn’t just a tribute to a bygone era of movie-making; it looks and feels like it’s part of the period. It’s the slowest-moving heist movie you’ll see this century, and not just because Redford’s hips aren’t what they used to be. It’s just that director David Lowery isn’t so interesting in the cops and robbers part as he is in making a fitting tribute to Robert Redford. The camera lingers on his impish grin, still capable of commanding a scene after all these years. The film is an homage to him in many ways – to his past filmography, to his status as a living legend. If this is indeed Redford’s last role (he has announced his intention to retire from acting), you couldn’t have found a better one. Lowery reworked the script, molding it from true crime to something more of a love letter to one of his favourite actors.

Sorry To Bother You

Well.

I hardly know how to talk about a movie like this.

It’s radical.

Ostensibly it’s about “telemarketing” but that’s like saying Toy Story is about single parenting. It’s really about racism and assimilation and wage slavery and identity – by way of telemarketing, at least to start.

Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is thrilled to get a shitty telemarketing job, working for commission. There’s almost no way to actually succeed doing this kind of work, but Cassius stumbles upon the secret, magic key: a white voice. A persuasive, approachable, overconfident voice, like Tobias Funke’s, perhaps. Using this voice, Cassius shoots straight to the top, rocketing past his buddies and even his girlfriend Detroit (Tessa MV5BMzNjZTZlZmYtODU0ZS00NzFkLTkyZGEtOTI5M2Q0YTZmNzg3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDg2MjUxNjM@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_Thompson) who are trying to organize a union that will help the little guys make a living wage too.

On top, Cassius is of course hypnotized by the wealth and privilege, but now that he’s rubbing elbows with “the man”, he’s finding it’s a little different than he’d imagined. “The man” is of course Armie Hammer, like you ever fucking doubted it. Hammer was literally born to be typecast as a slave owner – his great-grandfather was a legit oil tycoon and philanthropist, and the family is worth somewhere in the neighbourhood of $200M. So yeah, he’s got owning slaves in his blood, and we can all read it in his cheekbones. In Sorry To Bother You, he plays a CEO who is “saving the world” by enslaving all the poor people and making them thank him for it. Signing a contract, they agree to work wage-free for him forever in exchange for housing (which looks surprisingly like prison cells minus the bars but with double the roommates) and food.

And everything is just gently pushing you. Pushing your boundaries, almost imperceptibly. In the beginning, things are near normal but they escalate, asking us to accept just one more inch of absurdity. It is THE best kind of satire, uncompromising but plenty challenging.

First-time writer-director Boots Riley has made a film that is gutsy and experimental. It feels like this is a guy who isn’t sure he’ll ever get to do this again, so he’s not leaving a single idea on the table. He takes huge risks and when they pay off, hot damn. Sorry To Bother you zigs and zags in unexpected places but the super talented cast helps this thing stay grounded. Riley is full of piss and vinegar and a comic outrage that’s infection. This is bold stuff, exciting to watch, fearless, outrageous, and I want more. Not for the faint of heart.

Monster Trucks

Who is this movie made for? It talks down to its audience like we’re 5 year olds, yet it stars a 27 year old man playing a broody, 16 year old teenager. Okay, so maybe he wasn’t 27 when it was filmed – maybe he was 24. Ish. This movie was slated for release in 2015 but was delayed two years for “post-production” – it lost Viacom a LOT of money before it was even released.

Lucas Till plays the “teenager” in question, old enough to shave, but still makes fast-car noises with his mouth as he pretends to drive a car.

In a small town, an oil company is drilling for oil. They probably should have stopped monster-trucks-lucas-till-trailerwhen they detected a possible ecosystem but guess what? Oil guys are not super ethical! Surprising, I know. Of course something happens: something comes out of the hole. Turns out it’s a new life form, monster-ish in appearance, with a mean craving for oil. It rips through cars in the search for “food.” Tripp is busy brooding away with a strand of perfect blonde hair in his eyes when he encounters the monster he names Creach, and of course befriends it. Creach somehow becomes the motor in his beat up truck, making it go real fast and stuff.

Barry Pepper, Amy Ryan, Danny Glover, and Rob Lowe all have embarrassing roles in this piece of shit. There are trucks and there are monsters and there isn’t much of a story in between. Even my 5 year old nephew would stay away from this thing, and he loves both monsters and trucks. He does not, however, appreciate any love interest in his movies, and by making the protagonist a love-struck teenager, the film effectively eviscerates its only possible target audience.

There goes 104 precious minutes of my life, time I could have spent learning napkin folding or looking for love on Craigslist. What a wreck.

 

Mr. Pig

Ambrose’s farm is failing. He and his daughter are estranged. He doesn’t have anywhere else to be, so he and his friend Howard take a road trip down to Mexico. We get some solid, buddy-road-trip stuff out of Ambrose and Howard: questionable roadside food cards, cold beers, 000070-26554-16618_mrpig_still1_dannyglover__bydamingarca_-_h_2016reminiscences. It’s only a little wonky that Howard is Ambrose’s prized pig.

Howard is the last of a hallowed pig lineage, and Ambrose (Danny Glover) is making this illegal road trip to drop him off where he’ll be treasured and treated right, with the son of his old partner. It doesn’t hurt that the son is willing to pay what only Ambrose thinks Howard is worth. But when the incredibly porcine duo arrive, Ambrose finds his old partner’s farm to be thoroughly modernized, and that’s no compliment. It’s a factory farm that treats live animals like end products, so of course Ambrose balks. The deal is off: he and Howard hit the road once again.

This is when Ambrose’s very concerned daughter Eunice (Maya Rudolph) appears on the scene, but she cannot simply drive Ambrose and Howard back home because US customs just won’t allow it (well duh, they make you throw out orange slices for the love of god). So now it’s a father-mr-pig-moviedaughter-hog road trip movie, only there won’t be any touching redemption in this minivan. Ambrose just isn’t the type.

Mr. Pig wallows. It’s slow going. Diego Luna directs, and he’s got a fine eye for the beauty of Mexico, I’ll give him that. We see a side of it that we don’t usually glimpse in movies, the less cliched part of Mexico. The character study, however, is extremely low key. Too low key, you might be forgiven for thinking. Both Glover and Rudolph do their damnedest, but there’s just not enough bacon to go around.

 

Waffle Street

Waffle Street is a slice of life with too much syrup and not enough sustenance.

A Wall Street-type loses his job at a financial firm – doesn’t just lose it actually, gets fired and scapegoated for the firm’s shady dealings, of which he is also guilty. Wanting to redeem himself by doing “honest work” for a while, his fancy suit and attache case get his 160316114714-waffle-street-still-01-780x439resume thrown out of places from carpet fitters to mechanics. Only a chicken and waffle restaurant will take him, where he’ll fall under the tutelage and benevolence of grill man Danny Glover, who insists on being called Waffle Daddy.

This career downgrade means he and his wife have to sell their nice cars and sprawling home just as they are expecting a baby. But driving a Honda and owning a bungalow don’t elicit a whole lot of sympathy. The financial crisis that this dude helped create had far more dire consequences for millions of people.

This “riches to rags” tale is apparently based on a true story, but the movie feels the furthest thing from authentic. Low budget, bad acting, and sub-par script are all at play. This just doesn’t ring true. The voice overs, however, are unforgivable, and inspire almost as much nausea as the disgusting clogged toilet scene that for some reason was necessary to show in gory detail.

Since this is a rich white dude’s story, he of course isn’t satisfied with being a lowly server for long. Instead, he’s punching his time card with the ambition to soon open up his own franchise. And don’t worry – if the path isn’t as straight-forward as he thinks, he’s got a rich white father and a rich white grandfather both prepared to step in with wads of cash at a moment’s notice – but only if he’ll agree to take some time off soon. Because it turns out that working as if you’re poor and your life and family depend on it is really hard. It’s just too bad the film doesn’t know enough to be self-conscious about this.

Almost Christmas

A dysfunctional family gets together for Christmas – their last in their family home, and their first without their treasured mother, the only one who could unite them.

Patriarch and recent widow Walter (Danny Glover) still can’t find his wife’s beloved recipes, and he’s spending sleepless nights trying to recreate them. His wife’s sister May (Mo’Nique) is on hiatus from touring the globe as a MV5BMTYzMDA5OTQ3M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTM2NDI2ODE@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_back-up singer but her diva behaviour never takes a break. Son Christian (Romany Malco) is in the middle of a political campaign that comes with some high costs – including an intrusive chief of staff, Brooks (John Michael Higgins). Daughter Cheryl brings along her has-been/never-was husband Lonnie (J.B. Smoove), whom nobody can stand, but Cheryl’s too busy fighting with her little sister Rachel to notice. Rachel (Gabrielle Union) is divorced, with a kid. She’s struggling to complete law school, but it may be doomed to be another failed project. And baby Evan (Jessie T. Usher) just got cleared to get back on the team after an injury, but his drug habit has lingered. And they don’t even know yet that their dad is thinking of selling the house!

This is the kind of Christmas movie that will make you feel at home. It is unlikely that I will become a Princess this Christmas, no matter how many movies try to convince me of the possibility. To be honest, it’s probably slightly more likely that I’ll fall in love with an eligible Prince than that my family will crowd around a piano and sing carols with merriment and the love of baby Jesus in our hearts. Christmas movies sell us a whole heap of lies and expectations, but Almost Christmas is a Christmas I can live up to. It’s a family I can relate to. It’s a level of Christmas spirit I can probably even manage to emulate, on my best, holliest jolliest day.